Undergraduate Researcher Lingfan Cui Studies Driver Attention, Autonomous Vehicles

student working on computer

Meet senior psychology major Lingfan Cui, an international student who works as a research assistant for professor Jing Feng in the Applied Cognitive Psychology Lab

Since the fall of 2019, Cui has helped study emerging issues in driving attention such as autonomous vehicles. We caught up with Cui, a China native, to learn more about his research experience, newfound career path and time at NC State. 

How and why did you get involved in research?

During a challenging summer 2019 psychology class, I met then doctoral student Robert Sall who helped me navigate that class and worked in professor Feng’s lab. Sall invited me to assist him in the lab during the fall semester. I was curious about how psychology research worked, so I agreed and since then have continued to work in the lab.

What are some of the topics you have helped research with professor Jing Feng?

Initially, I examined how the salience and search time of one target on a computer screen affects people’s ability to find a second target. Then I assisted in an eye-tracking study to understand how drivers visually process roadside signs and in-car displays. Most recently, I have been examining how remote operators of driverless cars perform in various situations. 

What do you like most about your research experience?

In research, unforeseen situations happen, which provides me with the opportunity to practice divergent thinking and hone my problem-solving and creative thinking skills. In addition, finding different ways to solve problems and applying my creativity is fun.

What have you learned from your research experience?

I learned that mistakes are learning experiences. I used to be afraid of making mistakes because I don’t particularly appreciate failing. However, doing research taught me to expect the unexpected, which are opportunities to improve the study and myself.

How has the experience impacted your time at NC State?

It has enabled me to redefine my role at NC State. I am a student and an aspiring researcher. It also helped me realize that deciding a career path requires stepping out of my comfort zone and being open to participating in different on-campus events.

Has your research experience influenced your career or educational path?

Assisting in research has made me realize how much I enjoy being part of the process and sharing new ideas with people in the same field. I have decided to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in psychology.

What advice would you give students seeking to become research assistants?

Talk to your professor(s). Most are happy to answer any questions you may have and to provide suggestions about becoming research assistants. So, choose a professor you like and ask.

You presented a poster at NC State’s Undergraduate Summer Symposium Tell us about that project.

We are studying remote human intervention of automated cars. The goal is to determine how many vehicles one remote operator can monitor. To test this, we showed the operator 35 simulated driving scenarios, each 30 to 120 seconds long, that require a takeover.

In this preliminary study, participants monitored one vehicle, and we collected data using an online platform. In a subsequent study, participants will monitor multiple vehicles.

This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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